UNION TERRITORY, CHANDIGARH ADMINISTRATION AND ORS. …Appellants Versus PRADEEP KUMAR AND ANOTHER …Respondents – whether the candidature of the respondents who had disclosed their involvement in the criminal cases and also their acquittal could be cancelled by the Screening Committee on the ground that they are not suitable for the post of constable in Chandigarh Police and whether the court can substitute its views for the decision taken by the Screening Committee. Since the facts and issues are almost identical in all these appeals, they were heard together and shall stand disposed of by this common judgment = As held in Mehar Singh case, the decision of the Screening Committee must be taken as final unless it is mala fide.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 67 OF 2018
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.20750 of 2016)
UNION TERRITORY, CHANDIGARH
ADMINISTRATION AND ORS. …Appellants
Versus
PRADEEP KUMAR AND ANOTHER …Respondents
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 68 OF 2018
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.23855 of 2016)
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO.69 OF 2018
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.23726 of 2016)
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 70 OF 2018
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.8905 of 2017)
J U D G M E N T
R. BANUMATHI, J.
Leave granted
2. The question involved in these appeals is whether the
candidature of the respondents who had disclosed their
involvement in the criminal cases and also their acquittal
could be cancelled by the Screening Committee on the ground
Page No. 1 of 15
that they are not suitable for the post of constable in
Chandigarh Police and whether the court can substitute its
views for the decision taken by the Screening Committee.
Since the facts and issues are almost identical in all these
appeals, they were heard together and shall stand disposed of
by this common judgment. For convenience, we would deal
with the facts in appeal arising out of SLP(C) No. 20750 of
2016
3. On 14.03.2010, an advertisement was issued by UT
Chandigarh Police through its Deputy Inspector General of
Police inviting applications from the candidates to fill up 1200
temporary posts of Constable (Executive) in Chandigarh Police
with essential qualification as prescribed in the advertisement
with instructions for filling online application form. The
recruitment was to be done as per guidelines thereon as well
as standing order governing the recruitment of constables.
Guideline No.2(A)(a) deals with the circumstances when the
candidate does not disclose the factum of his involvement in
the attestation form and the same is found subsequently from
the verification report. The candidature of such candidates
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will be cancelled as per aforesaid guideline without making
any reference to any Committee for further probe into the
conduct of the candidate. In Guideline No.2(A)(b), it is
prescribed that if a candidate has disclosed his involvement in
some criminal case in the attestation form, then such case will
be referred to Screening Committee to assess his suitability
for appointment in Chandigarh Police irrespective of the fact
that the case is under investigation, trial or resulted in
conviction or acquittal.
4. Respondents were declared successful in the recruitment
for the post of Constable (Executive) in Chandigarh Police
after clearing the Physical Efficiency Test, Physical
Measurement Test, written test and interview. However, the
respondents were denied the employment on the ground that
the respondents had been prosecuted in a criminal trial for
the offences under Section 323 IPC and Section 506 read with
Section 34 IPC and were acquitted by the trial court vide
judgment dated 29.01.2010 giving them benefit of doubt. The
case was referred to the Committee headed by Senior
Superintendent of Police and it was found that the
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respondents were not suitable for appointment as Constables
in the Chandigarh Police.
5. Aggrieved, respondents filed OA before CAT. CAT vide
order dated 24.07.2012 allowed the OA and set aside the
orders of the Screening Committee and directed the
competent authority to consider the names of the
respondents for appointment to the post of Constable. The
State filed writ petition before the High Court which came to
be dismissed for all the respondents except Ombir holding
that there was no concealment of criminal antecedents. Being
aggrieved, the State has preferred these appeals.
6. Contention of the appellant is that acquittal of a person
does not entitle him to be appointed as a matter of right and
the appointing authority may still find such a person unfit to
be appointed to the post. It was urged by the appellant that
even though the respondents were acquitted in the criminal
case, the appointment of the respondents to the post of
Constable in Chandigarh police which is a disciplined force,
was found not desirable by the appointing authority. It was
submitted that the respondents were not honourably
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acquitted of the offences and the acquittal was only based on
the extension of benefit of doubt. Contention of the appellant
is that the post of Constable in disciplinary force demands an
impeccable integrity and track record besides good character
and suitability. Further contention is that the court cannot
overreach the jurisdiction of the Screening Committee by
substituting its own view in the decision of the said
Committee and hence, the impugned judgment of the High
Court and the Tribunal is not sustainable.
7. Per contra, contention of the respondents is that the
criminal case against the respondents was a case of ‘no
evidence’ and the acquittal of the respondents is an
honourable acquittal and the same cannot be termed to be
the case of ‘benefit of doubt’. Moreover, respondents had
fairly disclosed the factum of facing criminal trial by giving
complete details while applying for the job and there was no
suppression on the part of the respondents. On behalf of the
respondents, much reliance was placed upon Joginder Singh v.
Union Territory of Chandigarh and others (2015) 2 SCC 377.
Page No. 5 of 15
8. On the basis of the aforesaid rival contentions urged on
behalf of both the parties, the following points arise for
consideration:-
(i) Whether the contention of respondents that they
were honourably acquitted and that they should not be
deprived of being appointed to the post of Constable is
acceptable?
(ii) Whether the High Court was right in setting aside the
decision of the Screening Committee and directing the
authorities to consider the respondents to the post of
Constable in the disciplined police force?
9. On 23.06.2010, the Inspector General of police, UT
Chandigarh issued Standing Order No.44 of 2010 laying down
the guidelines to consider cases of candidates selected in
Chandigarh Police on having found involvement in criminal
cases in the past. This standing order deals with the cases of
candidates before issuance of appointment and after issuance
of appointment and joining. Relevant portion of the said
Guidelines reads as under:-
“GUIDELINES
(A) CASES BEFORE ISSUE OF APPOINTMENT
(a) The candidature will be cancelled in case the candidate
does not disclose the fact of his involvement and/or
arrest in criminal case(s), complaint case(s), preventive
proceedings etc. in the attestation form and the fact is
subsequently found out from any verification report
Page No. 6 of 15
received from the District authorities or for any/other
source.
(b) If a candidate has disclosed his involvement and/or
arrest in criminal cases(s), complaint case(s),
preventive proceedings etc. the case will be referred to
the Screening Committee to assess his suitability for
appointment in Chandigarh Police irrespective of the
fact that the case is under investigation, trial or
decided in conviction or acquittal.
………”
In Guideline 2(A)(b), it is prescribed that if a candidate has
disclosed his involvement in some criminal case in the
attestation form then such case will be referred to Screening
Committee to assess his suitability for appointment in
Chandigarh Police irrespective of the fact that the case is
under investigation, trial or decided in conviction or acquittal.
In the present case, in all the cases of respondents, the
aforesaid situation arises. On noticing the acquittal of the
candidates, the cases of respondents were referred to
Screening Committee. The Screening Committee carefully
examined the cases of the respondents and the reasonings for
their acquittal and the candidature of the respondents were
rejected finding them not suitable.
10. The acquittal in a criminal case is not conclusive of the
suitability of the candidates in the concerned post. If a person
Page No. 7 of 15
is acquitted or discharged, it cannot always be inferred that
he was falsely involved or he had no criminal antecedents.
Unless it is an honourable acquittal, the candidate cannot
claim the benefit of the case. What is honourable acquittal,
was considered by this Court in Deputy Inspector General of
Police and Another v. S. Samuthiram (2013) 1 SCC 598, in
which this Court held as under:-
“24. The meaning of the expression “honourable acquittal”
came up for consideration before this Court in RBI v.
Bhopal Singh Panchal (1994) 1 SCC 541. In that case, this
Court has considered the impact of Regulation 46(4)
dealing with honourable acquittal by a criminal court on
the disciplinary proceedings. In that context, this Court
held that the mere acquittal does not entitle an employee
to reinstatement in service, the acquittal, it was held, has
to be honourable. The expressions “honourable acquittal”,
“acquitted of blame”, “fully exonerated” are unknown to
the Code of Criminal Procedure or the Penal Code, which
are coined by judicial pronouncements. It is difficult to
define precisely what is meant by the expression
“honourably acquitted”. When the accused is acquitted
after full consideration of prosecution evidence and that
the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the charges
levelled against the accused, it can possibly be said that
the accused was honourably acquitted.”
11. Entering into the police service required a candidate to
be of good character, integrity and clean antecedents. In
Commissioner of Police, New Delhi and Another v. Mehar
Singh (2013) 7 SCC 685, the respondent was acquitted
based on the compromise. This Court held that even though
Page No. 8 of 15
acquittal was based on compromise, it is still open to the
Screening Committee to examine the suitability of the
candidate and take a decision. Emphasizing upon the
importance of character and integrity required for joining
police force/discipline force, in Mehar Singh case, this Court
held as under:-
“23. A careful perusal of the policy leads us to conclude
that the Screening Committee would be entitled to keep
persons involved in grave cases of moral turpitude out of
the police force even if they are acquitted or discharged if
it feels that the acquittal or discharge is on technical
grounds or not honourable. The Screening Committee will
be within its rights to cancel the candidature of a candidate
if it finds that the acquittal is based on some serious flaw in
the conduct of the prosecution case or is the result of
material witnesses turning hostile. It is only experienced
officers of the Screening Committee who will be able to
judge whether the acquitted or discharged candidate is
likely to revert to similar activities in future with more
strength and vigour, if appointed, to the post in a police
force. The Screening Committee will have to consider the
nature and extent of such person’s involvement in the
crime and his propensity of becoming a cause for
worsening the law and order situation rather than
maintaining it. In our opinion, this policy framed by the
Delhi Police does not merit any interference from this Court
as its object appears to be to ensure that only persons with
impeccable character enter the police force.
24. We find no substance in the contention that by
cancelling the respondents’ candidature, the Screening
Committee has overreached the judgments of the criminal
court. We are aware that the question of co-relation
between a criminal case and a departmental enquiry does
not directly arise here, but, support can be drawn from the
principles laid down by this Court in connection with it
because the issue involved is somewhat identical, namely,
whether to allow a person with doubtful integrity to work in
the department. While the standard of proof in a criminal
Page No. 9 of 15
case is the proof beyond all reasonable doubt, the proof in
a departmental proceeding is preponderance of
probabilities. Quite often criminal cases end in acquittal
because witnesses turn hostile. Such acquittals are not
acquittals on merit. An acquittal based on benefit of doubt
would not stand on a par with a clean acquittal on merit
after a full-fledged trial, where there is no indication of the
witnesses being won over. In R.P. Kapur v. Union of India
AIR 1964 SC 787 this Court has taken a view that
departmental proceedings can proceed even though a
person is acquitted when the acquittal is other than
honourable.
25. The expression “honourable acquittal” was considered
by this Court in S. Samuthiram (2013) 1 SCC 598. In that
case this Court was concerned with a situation where
disciplinary proceedings were initiated against a police
officer. Criminal case was pending against him under
Section 509 IPC and under Section 4 of the Eve-Teasing Act.
He was acquitted in that case because of the
non-examination of key witnesses. There was a serious
flaw in the conduct of the criminal case. Two material
witnesses turned hostile. Referring to the judgment of this
Court in RBI v. Bhopal Singh Panchal (1994) 1 SCC 541,
where in somewhat similar fact situation, this Court upheld
a bank’s action of refusing to reinstate an employee in
service on the ground that in the criminal case he was
acquitted by giving him benefit of doubt and, therefore, it
was not an honourable acquittal, this Court held that the
High Court was not justified in setting aside the
punishment imposed in the departmental proceedings. This
Court observed that the expressions “honourable
acquittal”, “acquitted of blame” and “fully exonerated” are
unknown to the Criminal Procedure Code or the Penal
Code. They are coined by judicial pronouncements. It is
difficult to define what is meant by the expression
“honourably acquitted”. This Court expressed that when
the accused is acquitted after full consideration of the
prosecution case and the prosecution miserably fails to
prove the charges levelled against the accused, it can
possibly be said that the accused was honourably
acquitted.
…………….
33. So far as respondent Mehar Singh is concerned, his
case appears to have been compromised. It was urged that
acquittal recorded pursuant to a compromise should not be
Page No. 10 of 15
treated as a disqualification because that will frustrate the
purpose of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. We see
no merit in this submission. Compromises or settlements
have to be encouraged to bring about peaceful and
amiable atmosphere in the society by according a quietus
to disputes. They have to be encouraged also to reduce
arrears of cases and save the litigants from the agony of
pending litigation. But these considerations cannot be
brought in here. In order to maintain integrity and high
standard of police force, the Screening Committee may
decline to take cognizance of a compromise, if it appears to
it to be dubious. The Screening Committee cannot be
faulted for that.
……………
35. The police force is a disciplined force. It shoulders the
great responsibility of maintaining law and order and public
order in the society. People repose great faith and
confidence in it. It must be worthy of that confidence. A
candidate wishing to join the police force must be a person
of utmost rectitude. He must have impeccable character
and integrity. A person having criminal antecedents will not
fit in this category. Even if he is acquitted or discharged in
the criminal case, that acquittal or discharge order will
have to be examined to see whether he has been
completely exonerated in the case because even a
possibility of his taking to the life of crimes poses a threat
to the discipline of the police force. The Standing Order,
therefore, has entrusted the task of taking decisions in
these matters to the Screening Committee. The decision of
the Screening Committee must be taken as final unless it is
mala fide. In recent times, the image of the police force is
tarnished. Instances of police personnel behaving in a
wayward manner by misusing power are in public domain
and are a matter of concern. The reputation of the police
force has taken a beating. In such a situation, we would not
like to dilute the importance and efficacy of a mechanism
like the Screening Committee created by the Delhi Police to
ensure that persons who are likely to erode its credibility
do not enter the police force. At the same time, the
Screening Committee must be alive to the importance of
the trust reposed in it and must treat all candidates with an
even hand.”
Page No. 11 of 15
The same principle was reiterated in State of Madhya Pradesh
and Others v. Parvez Khan (2015) 2 SCC 591.
12. While considering the question of suppression of relevant
information or false information in regard to criminal
prosecution, arrest or pendency of criminal case(s) against the
candidate, in Avtar Singh v. Union of India and Others (2016)
8 SCC 471, three-Judges Bench of this Court summarized the
conclusion in para (38). As per the said decision in para
(38.5), “In a case where the employee has made declaration
truthfully of a concluded criminal case, the employer still has
the right to consider antecedents, and cannot be compelled to
appoint the candidate.”
13. It is thus well settled that acquittal in a criminal case
does not automatically entitle him for appointment to the
post. Still it is open to the employer to consider the
antecedents and examine whether he is suitable for
appointment to the post. From the observations of this Court
in Mehar Singh and Parvez Khan cases, it is clear that a
candidate to be recruited to the police service must be of
impeccable character and integrity. A person having criminal
Page No. 12 of 15
antecedents will not fit in this category. Even if he is
acquitted or discharged, it cannot be presumed that he was
honourably acquitted/completely exonerated. The decision of
the Screening Committee must be taken as final unless it is
shown to be mala fide. The Screening Committee also must
be alive to the importance of the trust repose in it and must
examine the candidate with utmost character.
14. In the case in hand, the details of the criminal cases in
which the respondents were involved and the reasonings for
their acquittal and the consideration by the Screening
Committee are as under:-
Party
Name/
SLP No.
Allegations Reasons for acquittal Consideration
by the
Screening
Committee
Pradeep
Kumar
SLP(C)
No.
20750/16
• FIR under
Sections 148,
149, 323 and
506 IPC.
• Appeared
outside the
class room of
the
complainant
therein along
with other
people.
• Carrying lathis
and axe and
started
beating the
complainant
and other
persons of his
• PW-1
(complainant) and
PW-2 turned
hostile and denied
all the contents of
complaint.
• Witnesses
admitted their
signature on
complaint but
said that they
were obtained on
blank papers.
• IO did not appear.
• Therefore the trial
was closed as no
useful purpose
could be served
by examining the
• Accused
acquitted
because
star
witnesses
turned
hostile and
thus
accused got
benefit of
doubt.
• Appears
that
witnesses
have been
won over.
• Accused 19
years age
at the time
Page No. 13 of 15
village. remaining
witnesses.
of
commission
of offence.
Narender
Kumar
SLP (C)
No.20750
/16
• FIR under
Sections 148,
149, 323 and
506 IPC.
• Appeared
outside the
class room of
the
complainant
therein along
with other
people.
• Carrying lathis
and axe and
started
beating the
complainant
and other
persons of his
village.
• PW1
(complainant) and
PW2 turned
hostile and denied
all the contents of
complaint.
• Witnesses
admitted their
signature on
complaint but
said that they
were obtained on
blank papers.
• IO did not appear.
• Therefore the trial
was closed as no
useful purpose
could be served
by examining the
remaining
witnesses.
• Accused
acquitted
because
star
witnesses
turned
hostile and
thus
accused got
benefit of
doubt.
• Appears
that
witnesses
have been
won over.
• Accused 21
years age
at the time
of
commission
of offence.
Party
Name/
SLP No.
Allegations Reasons for acquittal Consideration
by the
Screening
Committee
Ajay
Kumar
SLP (C)
No.23855
/16
• FIR under
Sections 323,
307 and 34
IPC.
• Inflicted
severe injuries
to the sons of
the
complainant
by inflicting
blows with
hockey sticks
and kicks and
fist blows to
them.
• Delay of four days
in lodging the
complaint.
• Prosecution could
not come out with
clear motive.
• Two witnesses
were withheld by
the prosecution.
• Benefit of doubt
given to the
accused.
• Ajay Kumar
has been
involved in
commission
of heinous
bodily
injury.
• Acquitted
on the basis
of benefit of
doubt.
Paramjee
t Singh
SLP
(C)No.237
26/16
• FIR under
Sections 323
and 506 IPC.
• Appeared at a
satsang along
with other
accused.
Started
• Complainant/solit
ary eye witness
admitted the
evidence but
denied the
involvement of
accused.
• Stated that
• Accused
acquitted
as the
solitary eye
witness
turned
hostile.
• Considered
Page No. 14 of 15
creating
hindrance in
the same and
thereafter
upon the
complainant.
• Trying to stop
him gave knife
blows to the
complainant.
• Caused injury
to other
persons with
iron rod.
• Threatened to
kill the
persons with a
pistol.
assailants were
unidentified
persons.
• Stated his
signatures were
obtained by police
on blank papers.
the same to
be a case of
benefit of
doubt.
Ombir
SLP(C)
No.8905/
17
• FIR under
Sections 323,
354, 506/34
IPC.
• Allegation is
that Ombir
along with
other
co-accused
persons in
furtherance of
their common
intention
outraged the
modesty of
one Sudesh
(complainant).
• Caused hurt to
her, after
which the
complainant
was admitted
in the hospital.
• The complainant
and one Pradeep
(PW2) has turned
hostile and
therefore
prosecution
evidence was
closed and the
accused
acquitted.
• The
accused
was
acquitted
as the
complainan
t did not
support the
case of the
prosecution
.
• The
accused
has
committed
offence of
outraging
modesty of
woman and
has been
acquitted
on the
benefit of
doubt.
Page No. 15 of 15
15. From the above details, we find that the Screening
Committee examined each and every case of the respondents
and reasonings for their acquittal and taken the decision.
While deciding whether a person involved in a criminal case
has been acquitted or discharged should be appointed to a
post in a police force, nature of offence in which he is
involved, whether it was an honourable acquittal or only an
extension of benefit of doubt because of witnesses turned
hostile and flaws in the prosecution are all the aspects to be
considered by the Screening Committee for taking the
decision whether the candidate is suitable for the post. As
pointed out earlier, the Screening Committee examined each
and every case and reasonings for their acquittal and took
decision that the respondents are not suitable for the post of
Constable in Chandigarh Police. The procedure followed is as
per guideline 2(A)(b) and object of such screening is to ensure
that only persons with impeccable character enters police
force. While so, the court cannot substitute its views for the
decision of the Screening Committee.
Page No. 16 of 15
16. On behalf of the respondents, much reliance was placed
upon Joginder Singh v. Union Territory of Chandigarh and
Others (2015) 2 SCC 377. In the said case, the appellant
thereon was charged under Sections 148, 149, 323, 325 and
307 IPC but acquitted by the trial court holding that the
prosecution has failed to prove the charges levelled against
him since complainant as well as injured eye witnesses failed
to identify the assailants and the complainant had stated that
his signature was obtained on a blank sheet by the
Investigating Officer. The case involved was a family dispute.
In such facts and circumstances, this Court held that acquittal
of appellant Joginder Singh was an honourable acquittal and
hence, he should not be denied appointment to the post in
question. The decision in Joginder Singh case does not
advance the case of the respondents herein.
17. In a catena of judgments, the importance of integrity and
high standard of conduct in police force has been emphasized.
As held in Mehar Singh case, the decision of the Screening
Committee must be taken as final unless it is mala fide. In the
case in hand, there is nothing to suggest that the decision of
Page No. 17 of 15
the Screening Committee is mala fide. The decision of the
Screening Committee that the respondents are not suitable
for being appointed to the post of Constable does not call for
interference. The Tribunal and the High Court, in our view,
erred in setting aside the decision of the Screening Committee
and the impugned judgment is liable to be set aside.
18. In the result, the impugned judgment is set aside and the
appeals are allowed. The cancellation of candidature of the
respondents is upheld. No costs.
…….………………………..J.
(R. BANUMATHI)
…….………………………..J.
(UDAY UMESH LALIT)
New Delhi;
January 08, 2018
Page No. 18 of 15